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May the almighty give the Congress and our Generals wisdom, fortitude and perseverance, and teach the fingers of our army to fight.
Our cause is good, our army in health and high spirits, and more numerous that that of the enemy. May the divine Disposer of all events crown our victuous endeavors with success and save our country; of this we may be confident, "for he delights in virtue, and that which he delights in must be happy."
We have been spectators of such wonderful scenes within the last fifty years of our lives as perhaps were never seen before in the same space of time: tempests, convulsions, wars and revolutions have succeeded each other with such rapidity and violence as to cause the utmost astonishment of the human mind; but the events in Europe within the last and present year surpass all the rest.
We have reason to be thankful to God for the success of the arms of the U.S. the last year of the war, both at sea and land; it is true, the enemy got possession of the city of Washington (an unfortified and open town) and retained it four & twenty hours, but they were beaten at Baltimore, Chippewa, Bridgetown, Erie, with equal numbers; on Lake Champlain and at Plattsburgh a glorious victory was obtained over them by inferior numbers, and to crown the whole, they sustained a most signal defeat at New-Orleans by a still less proportion of combatants, the great majority of whom were Militia, brave but undisciplined. By these events our Independence is strengthened and the American character exalted. We may now reasonably hope for a durable peace, altho’ we must expect annoyances, while there are wars in Europe between the countries with whom we trade.
A glimmering of peace appears in the horizon. May it be realized. But every preparation should be made for a continuance of the war. When the British arms have been successful, I have never found their rulers or ministers otherwise than haughty, rude, imperious, nay, insolent. They and their allies have this year been successful, both in the north and south of Europe.
Though I shall never write a history, I will give you a historical fact respecting the Declaration of Independence, which may amuse, if not surprise.
On the 1st of July, 1776, the question was taken in committee of the whole of Congress, when Pennsylvania, represented by seven members then present, voted against it, four to three. Among the majority were Robert Morris and John Dickinson. Delaware (having only two present, namely, myself and Mr. Read) was divided. All the other States voted in favor of it. The report was delayed until the 4th; and, in the mean time, I sent an express for Cæsar Rodney to Dover, in the County of Kent, in Delaware, at my private expense, whom I met at the State House door, on the 4th of July, in his boots. He resided eighty miles from the city, and just arrived as Congress met. The question was taken. Delaware voted in favor of Independence. Pennsylvania (there being only five members present, Messrs. Dickinson and Morris absent) voted also for it. Messrs. Willing and Humphries were against it. Thus the thirteen States were unanimous in favor of Independence. Notwithstanding this, in the printed public journal of Congress for 1776, Vol. II., it appears that the Declaration of Independence was declared on the 4th of July, 1776, by the gentlemen whose names are there inserted: whereas, no persons signed it on that day; and, among the names there inserted, one gentleman, namely, George Read, Esq., was not in favor of it; and seven were not in Congress on that day, namely, Messrs. Morris, Rush, Clymer, Smith, Taylor, and Ross, all of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Thornton, of New Hampshire; nor were the six gentlemen last named members of Congress on the 4th of July. The five for Pennsylvania were appointed delegates by the convention of that State on the 20th of July, and Mr. Thornton took his seat in Congress, for the first time, on the 4th of November following; when the names of Henry Hinds, of New York, and Thomas McKean, of Delaware, are not printed as subscribers, though both were present in Congress on the 4th of July, and voted for Independence.
Here false colors are certainly hung out. There is culpability somewhere. What I have heard as an explanation is as follows: When the Declaration was voted, it was ordered to be engrossed on parchment, and then signed; and that a few days afterwards a Resolution was entered on the secret journal that no person should have a seat in Congress during that year until he should have signed the Declaration of Independence. After the 4th of July, I was not in Congress for several months, having marched with a regiment of Associators, as Colonel, to support General Washington, until the flying camp of ten thousand men was completed. When the Associators were discharged, I returned to Philadelphia, took my seat in Congress, and signed my name to the Declaration on parchment. This transaction should be truly stated, and the then secret journal should be made public. In the manuscript journal, Mr. Pickering, then Secretary of State, and myself, saw a printed half-sheet of paper, with the names of the members afterwards in the printed journals stitched in. We examined the parchment, where my name is signed in my own handwriting.
With respect to the histories of North America hitherto published I concur with you in opinion; they were not popular, because the authors were little known, and it was known, that they had not an opportunity of personal knowlege of the facts they related, and in several of them were mistaking: the authors seem to have paid too much attention to those, whom they supposed would from their reputation for wealth & influence would be most likely to promote the sale of their books, or otherwise advance their fortunes: this temptation is now done away; the favored characters are all dead, and very few of their descendents at present in any way distinguished.
I have never know a peace made, even the most advantageous, that was not censured as inadequate, and the makers condemned as injudicious or corrupt. "Blessed are the peace-makers" is, I suppose, to be understood in the other world; for in this they are frequently cursed.
My Observations upon the misery which a single legislature has produced in Pennsylvania, have only served to encrease my Abhorance of that Species of Government. I could as soon embrace the most absurd dogmas in the most Absurd of all the pagan religions, as prostitute my Understanding by approving of our State constitution—It is below a democracy. It is mobocracy—if you will allow me to coin a word.
Web Source: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-0458
I had in mine, of the same date, communicated to you my ideas on that part of the constitution, limiting the president's power of negativing the acts of the legislature; and just hinted some thoughts on the propriety of the provision made for the appointment to offices, which I esteem to be a power nearly as important as legislation.
Web Source: http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a2_2_2-3s46.html
It appears to me the senate is the most important branch in the government, for aiding and supporting the executive, securing the rights of the individual states, the government of the United States, and the liberties of the people. The executive magistrate is to execute the laws. The senate, being a branch of the legislature, will naturally incline to have them duly executed, and, therefore, will advise to such appointments as will best attain that end.
If the president alone was vested with the power of appointing all officers, and was left to select a council for himself, he would be liable to be deceived by flatterers and pretenders to patriotism, who would have no motive but their own emolument. They would wish to extend the powers of the executive to increase their own importance; and, however upright he might be in his intentions, there would be great danger of his being misled, even to the subversion of the constitution, or, at least, to introduce such evils as to interrupt the harmony of the government, and deprive him of the confidence of the people.
Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both.
With the moderns, I think, it is rather a matter of fashion and authority. Education is chiefly in the hands of persons who, from their profession, have an interest in the reputation and dreams of Plato. They give the tone while at school, and few in their after years have occasion to revise their college opinions.
Web Source: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-07-02-0341
The U.S. Constitution and the 196 Indispensable Principles of Freedom
The new government will demolish our Balloon Constitution. If it had no other merit, this would be enough with me. But it has a thousand other things to recommend it. It makes us a Nation. It rescues us from anarchy and Slavery. It revives agriculture and commerce. It checks moral and political iniquity. In a word, it makes a man both willing to live and to die. To live, because it opens to him fair prospects of great public and private happiness. To die, because it ensures peace, order, safety and prosperity to his children.
Web Source: http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-0394
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